Labour in Communist China suffer exploitation

Beijing, Dec 15 (IANS) Three-fourths of construction workers in China’s big cities are suffering exploitation for working without labour contracts, a situation that offers an advantage to their employers in salary disputes, a survey says.

The survey, conducted by Peking University, is based on an investigation of recent construction labour markets in Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Shenzhen cities of China, Shanghai Daily reported.

It found over 75 percent of construction workers, mostly migrants from China’s less-developed rural regions, admitted having not signed any recruitment contact.

Such a situation puts these workers at a disadvantage in getting timely payment for their work, the report said.

Local industry insiders say the trend is for big construction companies, including the state-owned groups, to no longer keep stable teams of construction workers of their own.

The general contractors, usually the big companies on top of the construction projects, outsource segments of the tasks to various legal smaller private companies. The big firms pay the sub-contractors on project basis while smaller constructors hire workers themselves.

‘Legally, the sub-contractors are obliged to sign contracts with the migrant workers they hire,’ said a manager with the Shanghai Construction Group, requesting anonymity. ‘But given the vast number of sub-contractors involved on the market and high mobility of the construction workers, the inspection to make sure these sub-contractors comply by the work-contract rule is difficult.’

Other market insiders also said the absence of labour contracts between sub-contractors and workers was a common practice.

‘In some cases, the small business sub-contractors just flee overnight,’ said the Shanghai Construction Group manager while mentioning an instance in which seven migrant workers were owed up to a total of 440,000 yuan (over $69,000) for their six months’ pending salaries from last year for building a rail project.